Flip the Switch

FliptheSwitch via Flash PromptFlip the switch.

(Don’t flip the switch.)


The voices follow her everywhere. She hears them in her apartment, on the subway, in the elevator. They’re a constant undercurrent whenever she listens to music.


A subliminal message of indecision.


Turn it off. Turn everything off.

(No. Leave it on. Let things happen as they will.)


It’s been a week, and then two, and she still can’t decide, and the voices – the whispers of her own subconscious – grow louder, more persistent.


Ordinary switches – lights, power strips, her computer – seem to be urging her toward a greater choice.


The simple act of turning off a light is exhausting.


Cut the power.

(Keep the power on.)


She walks through the rain, holding the pink umbrella she’s has since childhood, imagining switches everywhere. On car doors, on mail boxes, on the sides of buildings.


Finally, her soggy feet carry her inside the tall building, to the private room at the end of the hall on the seventeenth floor.


“Any change?”


The attendant in lavender scrubs shakes his head. “No; I’m sorry.”


She sits on the side of the bed, staring at the monitors, listening to the steady beeping and the machine driven intake and outflow of air.


“Can you call the doctor, please?”


The attendant nods once and disappears.


She lifts the still-warm, wrinkled hand of the man who has been her lifelong constant, providing her with a pink tool set, a Fisher-Price car, petite garden tools so she could work along-side him.


“Pop-pop?” She uses her childhood nicknamefor him. “I know you never wanted this. I’m sorry. I should have listened.”


Her tears wet his skin, roll into the crevices of hands that could braid hair or hang a tire swing with equal finesse.


“I found my old fishing pole in the garage. You taught me how to bait my own hook, and how to stun the fish we caught. I hope… I hope there’s fishing in heaven.”


She knows he can’t hear her words. She understands that there’s no longer any THERE, there.


But she keeps on talking.


The attendant returns with the doctor in tow.


“It’s time,” she tells the woman in a lab coat over a blue suit. “Let him go.”


It’s a solemn moment and yet it’s also mundane. The doctor flips a switch.


Silence falls.

Bridge Traffic

BridgeTraffic via Flash PromptIn zero point three kilometers make an upward turn onto Higher Sixth Avenue.


“Mommy, is it true that in the olden days, cars could only go left or right and not up or down?”


“Yes. I remember when I was your age, taking long drives to the beach, and being stuck in bridge traffic for hours.”


“What’s bridge traffic? Does it have to do with that weird card game Gramma and Grampa play?”


“Card ga – oh! No! They play Canasta.”


“Canasta sounds ca-nasty.”


“It’s really not, sweetie. It’s just a card game.”


“Oh.” The child took a beat. “You were going to ‘splain me about bridge traffic.”


“EXplain,” her mother said. “And yes, I will. When I was a little girl, the only way to cross the river to the road that ran along-side the sea wall was to go over a bridge. That’s a road that’s suspended above water.”


“I KNOW what a bridge is. “


“Well, this wasn’t just any bridge, it was a draw bridge.”


“So, there was traffic because everyone stopped to draw the bridge?”


“A draw bridge has a section that gets lifted up when a large boat has to go up or down the river. Some boats had masts that were too tall to go under the bridge when it was down. So they’d crank up the center, and traffic would stop and wait.”


“That doesn’t sound ‘ficient.”


“Efficient, sweetie, and no, it wasn’t. But we didn’t have cars that could go up, or Aerial Highways that went to the Tiers, so we had to wait.”


“I don’t think I’d like that.”


“Oh, it wasn’t so bad. We didn’t have guidance systems and TotalGPS like we do now, so sometimes we could turn down – “


“But you said you couldn’t GO up or down!”


“You’re right. We could turn ONTO a street we weren’t familiar with, and just see where it took us.”


“You mean, you could dev’ate from your set Travel Plan?” The little girl’s voice was full of wonder.


“Deviate. And we didn’t file travel plans. We just went wherever the road might take us.”


“And you weren’t afraid?”


“No… it was wonderful. Any trip could become an adventure. Sometimes we’d find parks or playgrounds or just neighborhoods with cute houses we didn’t know existed.”


“Do you miss it?”


“Very much. I wish you could experience it, sweetie. Life was so much more relaxed.”


“Even the bridge traffic?”


In one point three kilometers turn Down, then merge into the exit flow for Mid-level Forty-fifth Street.


“Yes. Even that.”


Something About Jessie

Photo Source: Flash Prompt Facebook GroupIt was common knowledge that Jessie was one of the Special ones. Billy was four years younger than she was, but he’d known her all his life, so he knew stuff.

Like, he knew that no one ever catalogued the ways in which the wispy little girl with the rats’ nest of dishwater-blonde hair was Different; but whenever something strange happened, she was likely to be at its center.

Not that her oddity, her Otherness, was bad, mind you.

But there were little things.

Like, when you played Tea Party at her house, the tea in her doll’s cup would disappear a little at a time, even though you never saw her lift it to steal a sip.

And when you were playing Freeze Tag there were moments when you’d swear she’d frozen with her feet above the ground instead of on it.

And any time a dog or cat went missing, you were stupid if you didn’t ask Jessie to help you find it. You didn’t have to look into the luminous gray eyes that seemed so huge in her pale, pointy-chinned, freckled face to know the girl had a Way with animals.

Her Strangeness made her the favorite among the school children. Playing with her was like inviting Magic home.

But as the kids in her year edged toward adulthood, and belief in such things faded, Jessie was left alone, more often than not.

At thirteen, Jimmy from the other block hadn’t yet begun demanding to be called Jim, but he had a kind of quiet authority that he wore like a cape. If he thought something was a Bad Idea, even the worst bully would back off from whatever-it-was and go do something else.

It made sense, then, that Jessie and Jimmy would gravitate toward each other. They were both Different, even though neither was showy about it.

Billy knew this, because he was Jimmy’s little brother, and couldn’t help it. When he saw his brother and the Curious Girl leave their bikes by the side of the road and go walking down toward the pond he had to follow.

So, there was a witness when it Happened.

It was one of those days when summer hadn’t quite let go of the daytime, but fall was taking ownership of the night, and Jessie and Jimmy stood in the place where the fog curled up against the water’s edge.

“Set them out, in a circle like,” Jessie said, and Billy watched his brother take instruction from another, and a girl at that, arranging mason jars with twine around the tops.

“Good?” the older boy asked.

“Good,” the girl whispered back. Seemed like Jessie only ever whispered. As if, maybe, using her voice came at some kind of cost. “Now wait.”

Billy had been catching fireflies all his life, just like every other kid in their town, but he’d never seen the bugs just Come, the way they did for Jessie.

She held out her hand like she was catching raindrops, and every few seconds one of the jars would start to glow, the insects inside offering their Light instead of having it taken from them.

Billy wasn’t surprised when he realized the jars were hanging in the trees without actually being attached to them. Stuff like that seemed normal when Jessie was around.

You didn’t expect it, exactly; but you weren’t shocked, either.

He also wasn’t surprised when his older brother leaned in and pressed his lips against the girl’s. Billy was only nine, and mostly thought girls were gross, but there was Something About Jessie that made her more like a faerie than an actual girl.

Truth be told, Billy kinda wanted to kiss her too.


Or maybe not.

‘Cause Jessie was still a girl, after all.

Billy slipped away while Jimmy and Jessie were still mashing their lips against each other’s, and he was pretty sure they hadn’t seen him.

He crept quietly down the track that led to the street, past where Jessie and Jimmy had dumped their bicycles, and then ran hell-bent-for-leather back toward home, in the door, up the stairs, to his room, and slammed the door.

When he saw the twine wrapped mason jar, hanging above his bed and glowing with firefly light, maybe that should have scared him.

But Billy looked at it, swinging in mid-air, attached to nothing.

And he smiled.

The Tears You Cry for Others

Photo Source: Flash Prompt Facebook GroupThe Tears are all there in bottles, aligned in rows, arranged on shelves in the far corner of the shop, where the sun can’t harm them and the temperature is constant – no chilling breezes every time the door opens.

Many shops offer a few bottles of Maiden’s Tears, but Madeleine is the only Keeper who offers the full line, and there’s no dispute that hers are the purest, the most potent.

Maiden’s Tears are most plentiful, and Madeleine has them further separated by vintage – that’s the age of the Supplier, not the age of the Tears, you understand.

Most shops never see anything beyond a 12, maybe a stray 10 if an order is mislabeled, but Madeleine offers 8s, which are full of innocent imagination. 13s, she warns, tend to induce snark when not used in extremely small amounts, and for special customers she’s been known to procure a rare, full-bodied 22 or 25.

Mother’s Tears – those are the varietals with the greatest differences. A 21 or 23 might have the best Fertility, but they’re often laced with Self Doubt and Regret. The 35s, Madeline says, and the 40s are best for boosting Confidence and Reliability, but if used incorrectly they can cause a spike in Sexuality that’s a bit unexpected.

Crone’s Tears go in and out of fashion. Some years, people clamor for the Wit and Wisdom they offer; other years, people avoid them, unwilling to risk high doses of Sorrow.

It’s said that Madeleine was a Supplier in her Maidenhood, that her Hopes and Dreams were among the strongest.

It’s also said she’s a Supplier of Crone’s Tears now, and that’s why she’s able to have such an extensive stock.

No one’s ever seen Madeleine Cry, but if you look carefully, she has the crescent-shaped mark under one eye – the kind you get from years of Collection.

It’s only ever one eye, of course. The Tears of one eye are Cried for others, but the Tears from the other eye are for yourself.

Take Back the Light

Fairy Light via Flash-PromptEdison wasn’t the first, you know. He wasn’t even the third. Scientists had been experimenting with incandescent bulbs for nearly a century before old Tom hit on tungsten.

But he had Help.

No, I don’t mean he had human helpers; I mean he had Help. From us.

We’re not exactly faeries, though we’re not exactly NOT faeries, either. Obviously, we Work with technology. We’re metalworkers and electricians and we don’t have the issue with iron that our brothers and sisters have.

And honestly, we were happy to Help. After all, humans have an inherent fear of dark corners and shadowy places. Fearful humans are DANGEROUS humans. So, helping you lot to have control over light and dark, even with limitations, wasn’t just a kindness.

It was an act of enlightened self-interest.

(Yeah, I went there.)

Here’s the thing though. You all got cocky. You didn’t stop at soft white, or even soft pink. You decided that your control of the light had to be more efficient.

First came those gods-forsaken compact fluorescent tubes that spiraled around to imitate the shape of a proper bulb.

They last a thousand times longer, you said, patting yourselves on the back.

But they also HUM. Most of you can’t hear it, but We Can, and it messes with our navigation, warps our flight paths, and makes our whole beings vibrate to the wrong frequency.

Those efficient not-bulbs are oh-so-efficiently killing us!

Then there were the LEDs. Okay, they don’t hum. But there’s something off about the light they produce. It has no heat, no substance. It’s like an echo of light rather than light itself.

We shiver when we’re near an LED. Ever seen a faerie or pixie shuddering uncontrollably? Trust me, it’s not pretty.

So, this is a message to you. We’re pissed. And we’re taking back the light. One bulb at a time.

One giant bulb at a fucking time.


Photo Source: Facebook Flash-Prompt Group

The Muse

The Muse via Flash Prompt“I call this one ‘Icarus, Grounded,’” the artist said, standing over his latest piece of sidewalk art.

He heard the expected oohs and ahhs, the impressed reactions of passers-by to his use of 3-d techniques mixed with more standard 2-d chalk drawings.

“I love the way the wings look like they were drawn with charcoal,” an old woman in orthopedic shoes murmured to her bald companion, who held a cane.

“I chose to make the central figure female to represent the way we tell women they can be anything, do anything, and then once they try, we clip their wings with the shears of toxic masculinity.”

“How powerful!” The comment came from a young woman – likely a student from the nearby university – wearing a ‘Women in the Sequel’ t-shirt.

“Yes, I think so,” the artist answered.

“Dude, she’s like breathing!” A teenaged boy stuck his foot out, as if to nudge the human form in the center of the piece.

The artist glanced at the boy in alarm. “Don’t touch!”

The kid backed off, grinning sheepishly. “Sorry, man, it’s just so real.”

The light changed. The 3-d illusion weakened. A gentle rain began to fall.

By morning the drawing would be gone.

Across town, in a room in an old apartment, the kind with wood floors and tall arched windows, a young woman woke from an afternoon nap, just in time for her partner to come through the door bearing containers of hot soup and a loaf of fresh bread.

“How’s your flu?” he asked.

“I don’t feel as feverish. But I had the oddest dream. I was a bird, but my wings didn’t work. I felt like I was pinned to the ground.” She ate a few bites of bread, dipping it in the hot broth while the soup cooled to a tolerable temperature. “Hey! How’d your new drawing turn out? I’m sorry I missed it.”

Her partner, the artist, smiled. “It got the reaction I was hoping for,” he said. “But it’s raining now. I’m afraid you won’t get to see it in person.”

“Oh. That’s too bad. Any pictures?”

“Oh… my phone ran out of juice,” he lied.

Weeks later, she’d see the image on some stranger’s Instagram, and assume he’d simply used her as a model.

Because the dream had been just that, right?


Photo Source: Facebook Flash Prompt Group

The Weather Man

Weather Man via Flash PromptThey used to laugh at him, calling him the Weather Man with derision in their voices.

“Preserving storms in bottles? Really, Dad?” Even his oldest daughter thought he was wasting his time. “That’s seriously lame.”

But Sam – that was his real name – went on collecting, stuffing sunrises into jam jars and snow storms into pickle bottles. He even managed to cram a coastal fog into a container one day, but it had been a wild capture. The bottle – once a home for spicy Kalamata olives – had retained the faint odor of garlic and brine. He wasn’t sure the integrity of the fog could be maintained.

The mason jars, with their special two-part lids, he reserved for the violent thunderstorms, the fingers of “Dracula” lightning, and the blustery gale-force winds of minor hurricanes.

By the time he’d lined every wall of his garage with shelves of bottles and jars, they no longer had actual weather reporters on the air. Instead, a virtual assistant would provide daily, weekly, and monthly weather schedules, highlighting planned storms.

It would have been nice to blame the eventual breakdown of the weather nets on aliens or meteors, or even war, but the reality was that hardware sometimes breaks, and software sometimes glitches.

After the sixth week with no precipitation, the governor sent a representative to the Weather Man’s door.

“Dad! Some guy in a suit wants to talk about your bottles!”

He could have made a deal, extorted the government for millions. College tuition for all three kids, the last of the mortgage – all of that could have been covered.

But Sam wasn’t that kind of guy.

“Take them,” he said. “Take them and release them all at once and then send the Weather Corps to get rid of the dead Net.”

And so they did.

They took everything, except for one bottle, the oldest in Sam’s collection. They took them and dropped them from the edge of the atmosphere. For a few days, the weather was chaotic, but eventually it settled into something like Before.

And that lone bottle? The one Sam kept? That one, he gave to his oldest when she turned 21.

“What is it, Dad?”

“It’s a summer squall from the day you were born,” he told her. “I couldn’t save the whole day, but I managed to preserve the weather.”

Father and daughter stood on the deck of their beachfront home, and watched the fog roll in. It was a perfect moment, until the young woman sniffed the air.


“Yes, dear?”

“Do you smell olives?”


Photo Source: Facebook Flash-Prompt Group

Cultural Exchange

Cultural Exchange via Flash Prompt“For the last time, Nkklsh!b, ‘Stargate’ isn’t real. It was a television show. An entertainment. A piece of fiction.”

Nkklsh!b (Nkk to its friends) rolled its single, amethyst, eye at the mission leader. “This isn’t real. That isn’t real… For a race that cannot Walk between Universes, you certainly spend much of your time creating them.”

“We’re not creating Universes, Nkk… we’re just amusing ourselves – what do you mean by ‘Walk?’”

“In my culture, we have long believed our ‘entertainments’ are inspired by visits to nearby Universes. This belief eventually became fact. We can take a sideways step and find ourselves Wherever we wish. In fact, as children, our parents encourage us to ‘go take a Walk,’ whenever they feel we have become too sedentary in mind or body.”

“Yeah, our parents sometimes suggest that too – mostly just to get us out of the house. Wait! Sideways step? Has Bruce been after you about playing ‘Werewolf’ again?”

“You know this technique?”

“It exists in a role playing game – another kind of entertainment. Ask Bruce when we get back to the ship. Just be prepared for a very lengthy explanation.”

“I will do so. Thank you for the suggestion, Anna.”

The pair continued to watch the people in robes approaching the great stone circle. From time to time, one would raise their staff, make a gesture, and step through, only to disappear.

“See, not a Stargate. A portal, apparently. But there’s no spinning dial. No blue ‘puddle’ representing the event horizon. The ring isn’t even complete.”

“Anna, once again, you are letting your limitations show. Perhaps this was merely what inspired your entertainment.”

Grudgingly, Anna allowed that it could be a possibility. “Although…” she mused our loud. “Those staves remind me of keys, and the portal is shaped like a stylized lock.”

“Perhaps we should continue our observation before we report to the Captain,” Nkk suggested.

“Perhaps we should.”

The retreated into their camouflaged shelter and engaged the cameras that would record the events at the stone ring for them.

“So,” Anna asked her companion as they shared a meal hours later, “what kinds of entertainments have your Walks inspired?”

“One of my favorites,” Nkklsh!b replied, amused affection coloring it’s tone, is about a member of my species becoming the first non-human to join a SpaceCorps Expedition ship.”


Photo Source: Facebook Flash-Prompt Group

Streets Paved with Gold?

Paved with Gold“The streets are paved with gold,” they said. As if that’s something to be proud of. Wasting gold on cobblestones? Really??


“But… gold streets! That’s amazing!” They kept insisting.


But old Fritz knew better. Sure they looked pretty in the first glow of morning light, all soft amber and rosy pink, but that same glow reflected into every window, of a morning, and usually at least an hour before decent folk had tumbled out of bed.


Maybe if you were one of the lords and ladies up at the castle-keep at the top of the cliff, looking down on glowing streets was akin to a miracle. But those at the keep had heavy shutters and thick draperies to block out the light.


The commoners? Not so much. They had wooden slats and fabric curtains, maybe.


And those at the castle had wet nurses and nannies to soothe the babes and littles when the glow from the streets was blindingly bright.


Fritz, on the other hand, had lived a lifetime of assuring his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that no, it wasn’t MOLTEN gold, and no, it wasn’t hot like lava, and just turn your face to the wall, kiddo, and sleep a little longer.


Streets paved with gold? Fritz had long considered moving to another village more than once. A village where the gold wasn’t flaunted, and the streets were paved with sensible things like brick cobblestones or gravel.


And yet… he couldn’t deny that the gold streets of the village where he’d spent ninety-three winters attracted a wealth (no pun intended) of tourists who were eager to spend their money in his shop, and the shops of his friends and family.


Streets paved in gold? Fritz weighed the concept in his mind a bit longer.


Then he rolled toward the middle of the bed he shared with Hazel, who – god willing – would mark her eighty-seventh winter in a few weeks.


He’d just sleep til the angle of the light changed, and the gold-covered streets no longer dazzled his aging eyes.


Photo Source: Facebook Flash Prompt Group

I Pray on Christmas

Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_viperagp'>viperagp / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


I pray on Christmas

That the Lord will see me through

I pray on Christmas

He’ll show me what to do


I pray on Christmas

He’ll help me understand

And I pray on Christmas

He’ll take me by the hand.


Kathleen stared up at the status board, and couldn’t help letting out a frustrated groan. Her flight had been delayed. Again. She liked her life as a road warrior, for the most part. She got to stay in lovely hotels, spend time in all the great cities of the world, and, she would probably never run out of frequent flier miles and first class upgrades. Flight delays, however, were something she would never enjoy.

Still, there were times when she longed to walk through the door to her own home to a sloppy, drooly greeting from her dog, a nearly ancient flat-coated retriever named Parker. (He was named after her childhood crush, Parker Stevenson, whom she used to watch every week on The Hardy Boys. No one, she thought, had ever made a better Frank.)

She and old Parker had been through a lot together: the birth of her first daughter, who would turn nine just after the holidays, the miscarriage she’d had three years later, and the divorce that had followed two years after that.

When she and her ex had agreed that Clariel was better off with him and his new wife, Kathleen had gone home to bury her face in Parker’s soft black fur. When she’d missed out on the promotion that would have allowed her to travel only when she wanted to, Parker had licked the frustrated tears from her cheeks. And when her friends had all gone home after her surprise forty-fifth birthday earlier that year, she and Parker had shared the last slice of cake while watching a cheesy Hallmark movie.

Now, though, it was December – just a couple of days before Christmas – and while a delay of a few hours wasn’t a big deal any other time of year, she’d promised Clariel they’d spend the holiday together this year.

If only the weather in Denver would cooperate.

— Flight delayed. Stuck in Denver. Will text when I know more. –  She sent the text to her sister Maggie, who had also served as dog-sitter for the last eight days.

— Get a glass of wine. You’ll get here when you get here. – Maggie was always so laid back. Kathleen didn’t know what she’d do without her.

— Tell Clariel… — but she didn’t finish the text. She didn’t have to.

— Clariel’s with me. We’re baking gingerbread. –

— You’re the best, sis. –

— Damn straight. –

Kathleen took her sister’s advice and made her way to one of the bars in her concourse. She didn’t remember ever seeing a piano bar in this airport before. Maybe they were only open for the holidays –booze and music went a long way to calming stressed passengers – or maybe she’d just never noticed it before. Most of the time, she spent her layovers in the VIP lounge.

The bar was surprisingly empty when she arrived, so she chose a table near the piano. The man at the instrument was playing jazzy versions of classic Christmas tunes, and she smiled at him.

He smiled back, blue eyes twinkling and white teeth shining in the subdued lighting. “Got any requests?” he asked, after she’d ordered and received her glass of red wine.

“I don’t know… surprise me,” she challenged. Her favorite Christmas songs were pretty far from the old standards.

The piano player launched into an arrangement of “The Christmas Song” that Kathleen had never heard before, and she found herself relaxing.

“Lovely,” she said, when the last note had faded away.

The blue-eyed musician cocked his head toward her, as if he’d heard something familiar in her voice – maybe her slight southern accent – and was trying to make a connection. His smile broadened into a cocky grin. “Louisiana?” he asked.

“Texas,” she corrected.

“Even better. Okay, Texas, this is for you.”

He began to play a bluesy tune, one Kathleen had fallen in love with, years before, and she couldn’t help but hum along, tapping her foot to the beat.

Her phone chimed, alerting her that her flight was finally boarding, just as he finished the song. She dropped ten bucks in the glass on his piano, thanked him for the music, and made haste to her gate.

* * *

The night was cold, and the nearly-full moon high in the sky by the time Kathleen claimed her car from long-term parking. She texted her sister to let her know she was on the ground and on the way home, and then she lost herself in the music from the holiday station on the radio, singing along as she drove.

Her house was bright with Christmas lights when she finally pulled into the garage, and the scent of gingerbread wrapped itself around her as she exited the car and entered the house.

Maggie greeted her in the back hallway, Parker at her side.

“Hey sis,” she said, “hi, boy, did you miss me?”

The dog was too old to jump on her, but he pushed his face into her hand, and walked with her into the living room, where she saw her daughter asleep on the couch, the multicolored light from the Christmas tree playing over her face.

“She made chili for you, if you’re hungry,” Maggie said.

They went into the kitchen, leaving the child to sleep a little longer. Parker followed along slowly, and collapsed at Kathleen’s feet when she dropped into a chair. “Chili sounds great.”

The sisters chatted while the weary traveler ate, and then Maggie got up to leave. “I’ll see you Christmas morning,” she said. “Love you, kid.”

“Love you too, sis.”

Kathleen and Parker returned to the living room, where Clariel opened her eyes to ask, “Mom? Are you really home?”

“I really am,” she said. “You wanna go to your bed?”

“I’m good here,” the child answered. “But, I’d be better if you sang to me, like when I was little.”

You’re still little, Kathleen thought, but not for much longer.

She pulled an ottoman over by the couch and sat on it, trying to choose a song. Parker came and rested his great head on her knee, and she smiled, ruffling her daughter’s hair with one hand and her dog’s fur with the other.

Then she began to sing the song she’d heard in the airport piano bar.

I pray on Christmas

That the sick will soon be strong

I pray on Christmas

The Lord will hear my song


I pray on Christmas

That God will lead the way

And I pray on Christmas

He’ll get me through another day.

Notes: This piece was inspired by Harry Connick, Jr.’s song “I Pray On Christmas,” which was suggested by my good friend Debra Smouse. Photo Copyright: viperagp / 123RF Stock Photo